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Afghanistan wading through blood

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    Posted: 09-Dec-2018 at 5:03pm
From 1978 to 1989, the USSR and the US, two superpowers and their allies struggled for supremacy in the region.

Afghanistan is one of those unfortunate states in the world that has continuously bled for about 200 years for no fault of its own. First with the advent of the colonial power in the form of the East India Company and later through a formalization of the British Raj.

The major reason is the important geophysical location of the state, not to mention the lust of world powers for vested interests. First it was a battlefield between the British and Tsarist Russia, later the USSR for expanding its sphere of influence to achieve foreign policy interests through containment at the cost of Afghan blood.

However, the proxy war imposed on this impoverished state for the last four decades proved more devastating than the previous wars.

The bloodshed in Afghanistan is one of the longest bloody proxy wars waged by the international and regional powers, but cunningly painted as an Afghan internal conflict. Its intensity and scale changes according to the convergence and divergence of the interests of the regional and international powers.

From 1978 to 1989, the USSR and the US, two superpowers and their allies struggled for supremacy in the region. From 1989 onwards, after the departure of the two superpowers from the scene, the proxy war between the regional powers vied to either physically control Afghanistan to turn it into a backyard or wanted to relegate it to a vassal state to use it as a launching pad against regional adversaries. Alas! At that time, there was no outcry from the international community against the violation of the sovereign state of Afghanistan.

During this period (1989 to date) the death and destruction in Afghanistan spread from the peripheral to the mainland and cities, turned it into a graveyard of humanity, justice and international laws which claimed to regulate and enforce states’ conduct on human rights. In the case of Afghanistan the role of the United Nations was similar to the League of Nations whose power became redundant to stem the game of death and destruction waged in World War II.

Ironically, even during the Afghan War (1978-1989) the interests of the then allies were divergent. Generally for the West and particularly the US, the Afghan proxy war was only aimed at defeating the USSR. But for regional powers like Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia the objectives were more than defeating the Communist Soviet Union. For them it was the beginning of their regional game.

However, Pakistan, emboldened by the fall of the USSR and the ostensible departure from the scene of the much obliged US in facilitating to vanquish its ace global rival, had ambitious objectives in Afghanistan. It invested heavily to turn Afghanistan into a backyard or a vassal state aiming to bury the Durand Line issue once and for all as well as use Afghanistan as a launching pad against regional adversaries.

Achieving maximum goal was not possible without excluding other regional actors from the theater which posed as a threat to regional stability and consequently intensified their interference. “They were saying the war would end when the USSR withdraws from Afghanistan but after its withdrawal the war not only intensified but turned into a more dangerous and devastating international game,” said Afrasiab Khattak, former Senator and Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). That is why through the Taliban they were not only targeting the Afghan leadership but the previous docile Mujahideen leaders, and were hell bent to obliterate the Afghan history and culture to prepare and fit Afghanistan to the new geographical adjustment.

The pre 9/11 Afghanistan was made a hub of religiously radicalised proxies which had turned it into a theatre of terrorists and terrorism while its breeding ground was in close proximity beyond its borders. During all these fatal developments the international community was either a silent spectator or had a soft corner for some regional powers or groups. Such ambivalence of the international community, particularly the US, reinforced the suspicions that either it was disinterested in the region or was waiting for the situation to reach a boiling point to provide justification for its physical comeback.

The post 9/11 once again brought the international powers to the Afghan theater to yet again turn it into a battlefield between the divergent but more complex international and regional interests. The declared objective of every actor was to defeat terrorism but ironically all of them were using the same tools in various shapes and forms to achieve geo-strategic and economic interests. “Every power wanted to promote its selfish interests at the cost of Afghan blood and continues to do so,” regretted Mr Khattak, who is also an authority on Afghan affairs.

The interference of regional powers, particularly the neighbouring states is no longer a secret but most ironically the stance, role and objectives of the US are neither clear nor stable. Immediately after the 9/11, the US declared Al-Qaeda its main enemy and target. Initially, the Taliban were only punished by toppling their regime in Afghanistan for hosting Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda. Thereby turning a blind eye to the Taliban to flee the country only to be facilitated to regroup with full force on the other side of the Durand Line pushing the US and its allies to multiply their forces in Afghanistan. Was it a mistake or a deliberate plan to perpetuate the conflict? Previously the Taliban were not invited to the Bonn conference but currently the US is eliciting desire to hold direct peace talks with them, that can be an indication to accept a proxy group as legitimate.

However true that the Taliban enjoyed all types of external support and safe havens a mind boggling question is, how on earth access to their targets was ensured deep inside Afghanistan? How did they succeed to control areas in the presence of the US and NATO, the world’s best and resourceful forces and their intelligence network?

If the British forces, part of the ISAF, could defeat the Boer guerrillas (1899-1902), the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-British Army (MPABA) and its offshoot the Malayan Races Libration Army (MRLA) in the late 1940s by successfully cutting off their local support, how could they fail to neutralize the Taliban support among the local population? If the real problem was support by the neighboring state or states, how could the only superpower of the world, the US and its powerful NATO allies not force the hands of the Taliban’s supporters to stop supporting terrorism?

A plausible answer is that everyone’s hands were dirty and were playing the same dirty game of containment and promoting their selfish geo-strategic and geo-economic interests at the expense of the innocent Afghan blood. There is no let up in the flow of the Afghan blood.

Currently, every state is trying to display its wares at the expense of the Afghan, under the guise of sealing the much needed peace. But for every state directly involved in the Afghan peace implies raising its stakes and safeguarding its vested interests while others pretend to look good or civilized. “On the one hand there is the ongoing peace process but on the other innocent blood is being shed on a daily basis. How is peace possible in such circumstances?” Khattak intoned pessimistically. “For credibility of peace it is important that it should immediately reduce the dangerously high level of violence,” Mr Khattak emphasised.

Unless intervention by foreign hands ceases to keep Afghanistan as a theater of war for regional and international interests, peace is an illusion. And it will continue to remain an illusion unless Afghanistan is respected as a sovereign independent state. It is time for the UN to show relevance and atone its past shortcomings by playing a proactive role to stop foreign intervention to end the bloodshed of innocent Afghans and bring the much needed peace to this hapless country!

By: Talimand Khan
Source: Daily Times
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